Take a look back at the documented history of the Church Hill Volunteer Fire Department, from its humble beginnings to modern day.
Take a look back at the documented history of the Church Hill Volunteer Fire Department, from its humble beginnings to modern day.
As far as is known the first fire fighting equipment for Church Hill was purchased in the year 1895. The equipment arrived at Price Station in a box car, and being hand drawn, it was brought to Church Hill behind a farm wagon. The unit operated by hand, the pump had two levers one on each side with space for about four men. At the same time the hand drawn unit arrived, three wells each eight feet in diameter were dug for water supply. The total cost of the hand drawn pumper and wells was $1,200.00. This money was borrowed by the Town Commissioners and was repaid through a $0.15 town tax.
The next piece of equipment was purchased in the year 1910. It too had a hand drawn chassis, but it had a pump driven by a gasoline powered engine. The motor was a two-cylinder affair located on the rear of the chassis and had to be cranked by hand. These two pumpers had no provision for the carrying of hose, so a two wheel reel was purchased. Wound around this wheel, the hose could be run on and off as needed. All of this equipment was housed in a one story frame building located in the rear of a barn owned at the time by Dr. S.C. Dudley. An old time farm dinner bell was attached to the top of the building as a general alarm. This building was used until the erection of a new fire house on Walnut Street.
In the summer of 1926, a committee composed of Mr. & Mrs. W.H. Good, Mr. J.W. Anderson and Mrs. Lola P. Brown made a trip to Media, PA to witness the demonstration of a used fire engine, which led to its purchase that same year. This pumper consisted of a Howe piston pump mounted on a Model T Ford chassis.
In 1927 a lot located on Walnut Street was donated by Mr. & Mrs. Nelson J. Brown, Mrs. Nan Brown Van Ripper and Miss Esther Brown, as grounds for erecting a new fire house. A one story block building for housing two engines was erected on this lot in 1930. Mr. & Mrs. W.H. Good donated our first siren which was mounted atop the fire house.
In March 1931, a new Studebaker truck chassis was purchased at a generous reduction from the Church Hill Motor Company. The pump was installed by U.S. Fire Apparatus Co. of Wilmington, DE. At the northern entrance to Church Hill an artesian well was drilled by the fire company to provide a source of water supply to fight fires in that area.
On April 15, 1941, the need for a tank truck to fight rural fires was realized. A tank truck with a 1,000 gallon capacity was purchased in January 1942. This was the first tank truck with a large capacity to be purchased by any company in the Queen Anne’s County area. To further increase the efficiency of our company, it seemed advisable to purchase a still larger pumper. For this an International chassis was selected on which was installed a Hale pump. The unit also carried 1,000 gallons of water and had a 500 g.p.m. two stage centrifugal pump. The fire company paid for the chassis from funds raised by carnivals. The pump and its installation were paid for by personal contributions generously made by our friends.
A committee was appointed in the fall of 1948 to meet with the people of the town to see if they would support us in remodeling our old fire house. Having the consent of the town, we consulted a contractor for plans and estimates. Finding our old lot too small to house all the equipment and allow space for meeting and recreational facilities, it was decided to look for a new lot which would be adequate.
In the spring of 1949, another meeting was called with the people of the community asking if they would approve the project of building a new fire house. Again getting their support we purchased a lot from Mrs. Lula Massey, the size of which was about 78′ by 200′.
Ground was broken for this building in February of 1950. During construction, all the cement blocks were hauled by the fireman and people of the community. In addition, our fireman donated their time and services in painting and various other jobs.
The young men of the community deserve a great deal of credit for their untiring and persevering effort toward the successful completion of the new Church Hill Fire House, which was dedicated on November 11, 1950.
In 1951 it was decided by the company to purchase a new truck to replace the Studebaker tank truck bought in 1942.
A F-7 Ford chassis was secured on which was mounted a 500 g.p.m. Hale pump and a 1,000 gallon tank. This truck was delivered in January 1952 and responded as Engine 56. The old Studebaker tank truck was traded in on the Ford Chassis.
Trucks were first equipped with radios in 1952.
In 1956 we purchased a Dodge Power wagon which the company made into a brush truck. It carried 250 gallons of water and a small forestry pump ran off the fan belt.
In 1957 a base radio was placed in the fire house.
In 1963 we purchased an International chassis with a 1,000 gallon tank and a Barton American 500 g.p.m. front mounted pump to replace the 1948 International. The new unit would respond as Engine 52.
In 1967 we acquired a used generator through Civil Defense to handle our power needs during times without electric service. In March of that year a building to house the generator was erected. Also in that year in order to provide a water supply in the northern end of town, pipelines were laid from the ponds of William H. Cronshaw and Gilbert Everett by the men of the company. During July of 1967 we received a used trailer from the Hess Oil Company with a 6,800 gallon capacity for rural water supply.
In March 1968, we purchased a used Mack B Model diesel tractor to pull the 6,800 gal. tanker. The men of the company did all the work in getting this valuable piece of equipment into service.
In August of 1968, work was started on an addition to house the new tanker purchased earlier in the year.
In January of 1969, a siren was put up at the northern end of the town for the members that lived in the area.
During the year 1975, the company placed into service Engine 53, a 750 g.p.m. Barton American on an International chassis with a 1000 gal. tank. This was the first unit placed into service by the company that was painted lime yellow. Since then all apparatus has been painted white over lime-yellow.
In 1977 the Dodge brush unit was retrofitted with a new pump and tank skid unit and re-painted lime yellow.
Our 6,800 gallon tractor trailer tanker was replaced in 1981 with a 1967 International 4,200 gallon tanker we acquired from an Amoco dealer in Baltimore County. Again, most of the work in placing this unit in service was done by the members of the Company who volunteered their time and talents.
In September of 1982, we replaced our old brush truck with a 1982 Ford 4 wheel drive pick-up for use on brush and field fires as well as quick response unit for structural and vehicle fires.
In August of 1985, we replaced the chassis of our tanker with a used 1979 Mack R Model and improved its water supply capabilities.
The Company looked into purchasing a new pumper to replace both the 1953 Ford and the 1963 International in late 1985. After almost two years of work our dreams were realized when a 1988 1250 g.p.m. Pierce Arrow custom pumper was placed into service in March of 1988. This piece of apparatus increased our fire suppression capabilities greatly and the members have shown great pride in this vehicle.
In response to the increasing number of ambulance calls in our area and the lack of EMT personnel, we decided to start responding on medical assist calls with the closest ambulance in 1989. We obtained a used 1985 Chevrolet Blazer from Huls America (formerly Tennaco of Worton, MD) and the membership put in the effort to clean and paint this vehicle for our use. This unit provided a much needed service to the town and surrounding community.
In 1991 after much renovation, we placed into service a 1978 Hahn 1,500 g.p.m. pumper which we acquired at a great savings from the Dumphries-Triangle Vol. Fire Co. in VA. The membership contributed many hours to this project which was placed into service as Engine 52 and became our second run pumper.
In June of 1993, two of our members attained the highest offices of the Maryland State Fireman’s Association and its Ladies Auxiliary. Philip M. Hurlock, a Past President of the company was elected President of the MSFA and Gayle A. Jester, Past President of our Ladies Auxiliary was elected President of the Ladies Auxiliary to the MSFA after a thirteen year climb to the top. This was quite an honor for our small volunteer fire company and is only the second time in the MSFA’s one hundred year history that both Presidents were elected from the same fire company during the same year.
In 1994, a committee was formed to replace the used Hahn pumper and increase our rescue capabilities.
After two years of meetings and reviewing other apparatus, the company placed into service 1996 a Pierce Lance rescue pumper. The unit, Engine 52 was equipped with a 1,250 g.p.m. pump and 750 gallons of water and various new rescue tools. Our demand for extrication service has nearly tripled in the last few years making this purchase a much needed one.
Later in 1996, we decided that the Medical Assist unit needed to be upgraded. We obtained a used 1994 Chevrolet Suburban and equipped it as our new medical assist unit, placing it into service as Special Unit 59. At the same time we converted our old medical assist unit into the company’s first incident command vehicle. It would respond as Chief 5 and be used by the company’s fire suppression officers.
In 1998, we made firefighter safety our number one priority. After much research into safety, funding and the new NFPA standards the company replaced all of our self-contained breathing apparatus with the new Scott Air-Pak Fifty. This purchase along with individual face pieces made us the first company in Queen Anne’s County to be NFPA and OSHA compliant in regards to respiratory protection.
In 1999, we decided to continue our pursuit in regards to firefighter safety and NFPA 1500. Our 1988 Pierce Arrow pumper which is our first line engine was driven to Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton, WI for a complete re-hab project. After a long wait, the engine returned to Church Hill with a new paint job, lettering, enclosed cab, air condition, improved seating/seatbelts and new warning equipment. Also in 1999 after many months of committee meetings we ordered a new tanker to replace our aging Mack tanker.
In 2000, we placed into service a new Kenworth/4-Guys 3,000 gallon tanker with a 1,000 g.p.m. pump. The unit was also equipped with attack lines and hand tools for minimum staffing responses. This is our first tanker to have pumping capabilities.
In 2001, after many years of success providing medical assist service to the community, the members decided since we were the last company in the county without ambulance service it was time to start one. A used ambulance was purchased from the Grasonville EMS Department here in our own county. The unit was repainted and placed into service as Ambulance 5.
After two years of providing emergency medical service, our ranks have grown and in early 2004 a new Pierce/Med-Tec ambulance was placed into service to handle the increased call volume and to replace the used Ambulance 5.
In 2004, we were awarded a $46,000 FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant to upgrade our present SCBA’s with buddy breathing and quick fill capabilities, purchase a new 6,000 psi breathing air compressor, cascade system and containment type fill station along with two Scott Rapid Intervention Bags with one hour cylinders and additional facepieces equipped with voice amplifiers for our members. This allowed us to improve our capabilities to function as a RIT team on the fireground and provide our members with the most up-to-date self contained breathing apparatus units for firefighter safety & survival.
The Company purchases an enclosed trailer to be used as a Spill Support Trailer to enhance responses to Haz-Mat type incidents. The Company has many members trained in Hazardous Materials.
A 2005 GMC 3500 utility body truck was placed into service as Special Unit 59. The new unit responds on medical incidents to reduce wear and tear on larger apparatus and tow’s the new spill support trailer. Old Special Unit 59 becomes a Chief’s Vehicle/Command Unit.
The Company purchased a 2006 GMC Yukon to be used as a command vehicle by the Chief or other officers. Chief 5 was outfitted with an incident command board and miscellaneous tools. The old Chief’s Truck is sold to Danville FD, Lancaster County, PA.
A four bay pole barn style building is erected in the rear corner of the property, behind the main firehouse in order to house additional apparatus and enhance storage space. Land was “swapped” with the Town of Church Hill to allow for better placement of the building.
The Company decides to enter the truck company business, providing a new service to the community. Members locate and purchase a 1989 Mack/Baker Aerialscope Tower Ladder from Queensbury Central, NY for $225,000 and plans are made to refurbish the unit. The unit is purchased from County Impact Fee money received by means of new development.
A new custom engine from Pierce Manufacturing is delivered and placed into service as Engine 55 at a cost of approximately $450,000. Engine 55 is specified on an Arrow XT chassis and carries 750 gallons of water. Engine 55’s first call is an apartment fire in Chestertown on Christmas Eve 2008. After 20 years of front line service, Engine 51 is moved to a 3rd due/reserve status.
Engine 55 is operating at a working fire at the Brambles facility in Chestertown in the early morning of June 27, when a Queen Anne’s Sheriff’s Deputy discovers a fire at the Church Hill Lumber Company in downtown Church Hill. Engine 52 is the first unit on scene and finds a well progressed fire. The incident expands to 5+ alarms before being extinguished. Members operate for more than 10 hours. The fire was later ruled arson.
After refurbishment by Micro Fire Apparatus in Allentown, PA, Tower Ladder 5 is placed into service. Her first call is a building fire at the Subway in Centreville On July 2.
A Ford F-550 Brush Truck is purchased from General Fire Equipment. This unit has a 500 gallon tank, which proves beneficial during times of decreased staffing or lack of qualified engine drivers. This is the first brush truck of its’ kind in the area. Brush 5 replaces a 1982 F-150, which is sold to Denton VFC in Caroline County.
Company members staff the fire station to provide rapid response during Hurricane Irene. Many motorists are rescued from flood waters by members of Company 5.
Engine 55, Special Unit 59, Support Trailer 5 and several other area apparatus travel to Toms River, NJ to assist with supplies and ongoing efforts after Hurricane Sandy batters the Jersey shore.
The Company sees a decrease in available EMS providers during the day due to various factors. Leadership of the company begin talks with Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services about paid EMS staffing being housed in Church Hill. A successful trial period is conducted.
With no progression in DES EMS staffing; the Company announces job openings for part-time EMT’s and Paramedics. Eight applications are received. Before any employees are hired, an agreement is reached with QAC DES to house DES EMS employees at Church Hill.
The 64 year old fire station receives some much needed upgrades. New epoxy floors are installed, fresh paint in the apparatus bays and a refurbished restroom is completed. The deteriorating exterior parking lot is repaved.
“Paramedic 500” begins service in Church Hill operating for 12-hours per day. The staff is employed by QAC Department of Emergency Services. The crews initially utilize Ambulance 5 due to space, but are placed in their own ambulance later in 2016.
Church Hill receives its’ third FEMA Assistance to Firefighter’s Grant in the amount of $263,653 for the replacement of our SCBA’s. 32 new Scott 5.5 air packs, with spare cylinders and face pieces are placed into service.
A committee of members is formed to refurbish the department’s second piece of fire apparatus – a 1931 Studebaker. 88 years of firefighting history is brought back to life with most of the work being completed by members in-house. An enclosed trailer is purchased to store and transport the apparatus to parades and events.
After many years of minimal progress, the Building Committee is revitalized and reduced. The new group intently focuses on a new or expanded fire station. A new architect is selected and a budget is drawn.
The Building Committee reports its’ findings to the Company. The current fire station is to be demolished and a completely new structure is to be built. The new fire station is projected to cost 2.5 million dollars. The Company largely vacates the 68 year old fire station in late December and begins operating out a construction trailer from the rear lot. Work is set to begin on the new fire station in early 2019.
A committee is formed to replace the current Tanker 5. As a result, a new Pierce Arrow XT Engine-Tanker is ordered just before Christmas. The new Engine-Tanker is to be delivered in late 2019.
The company’s first custom pumper – a 1988 Pierce Arrow, with 30 years of firefighting history – is sold to a member of the company.
Tanker 5, a 1999 Kenworth 800/4-Guys tanker is sold in April to an apparatus dealer. The company is without a tanker until the new 2019 Engine Tanker arrives.
DES Paramedic 500 begins operating for 24 hours in Church Hill.
In the past thirty five years, our call volume has increased from a mere thirty five runs a year to over four hundred runs a year. The Company currently has over fifty active and inactive members who provide both fire, rescue and emergency medical services to our response area. Our membership is trained second to none with national and state certifications ranging from Fire Fighter II to Fire Officer IV. Our future is bright with plans for continued replacement of our apparatus fleet and as always a desire to improve our operations to the community.